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Ann Meyers | Biopharming Research Unit

Research | Publications | Lab members | Telephone +27 21 650 5712 | Facsimile +27 21 650 2646


I grew up in Pietermaritzburg and came to UCT to study a BSc in 1983. I graduated in 1985 and then did a BSc Hons at UCT in 1987.  After travelling overseas for 2 years and subsequently working as a Scientific Officer in the Department of Microbiology at UCT I enrolled for my PhD in the department in 1996 where I investigated the bacterial pathogens of the red macroalga Gracilaria gracilis and its response to bacterial infection.  I obtained my PhD in 1999 and took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship at UWC for a year working on marker assisted selection of disease-resistance apples.  In 2000, I took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Prof Ed Rybicki’s research group where I worked on the development of a HIV-1 Gag virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine in plants.  In 2010 I was appointed as a Research Officer and embarked on a new project involving the production of Bluetongue virus (BTV) particles in plants as a potential animal vaccine.  
My research interests lie in the expression of recombinant proteins, diagnostics and subunit vaccines (particularly veterinary vaccines) in plants.   I am currently a Senior Research Officer in the same research group – now called the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) and focus on the production of second generation VLP vaccines against BTV as well as the related African horse sickness virus (AHSV). In addition, I am working on the production of AHSV antigens which can potentially be used as diagnostic reagents in ELISA as well as other potential antigens for emerging infectious diseases such as CCHFV, CHIKV and WNV. Since 2000 I have supervised and co-supervised a total of 11 MSc students and 8 PhD students as well as 17 honours students.


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Lab members
More informationDr Sandiswa Mbewana
Junior Research Fellow
Dr Alta van ZylMore information
Junior Research Fellow
Dr Sue DennisMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Dr Emmanuel MargolinMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Dr Jennifer StanderMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Matt VerbeekMore information
Scientific officer
Phindile XimbaMore information
PhD student
Munyaradzi TinarwoMore information
MSc student
Asanda MatisoMore information
MSc student
Abigail GwynnMore information
MSc student
Tim PlasketMore information
MSc student

Dr Sandiswa Mbewana
Junior Research Fellow

I am a Biotechnologist specializing in Plant Biotechnology.  My Bsc Biotechnology degree was obtained at the University of the Western Cape in 2005. My post graduate studies (BSc Hons and MSc in Wine biotechnology) were completed at Stellenbosch University. My MSc was on the analysis of possible fungal resistance phenotype in transgenic tobacco plants over-expressing the native cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase gene.  The key study area was Grapevine biotechnology focusing on disease resistance. 

Since 2008 I have been working as a Scientific Officer in the plant based vaccine group. My project was on the development of an avian influenza virus (H5N1) vaccine using plants and insect cell expression system. I completed my PhD 2017 on the development of Rift Valley Fever Virus vaccine in plants. I was a Carnegie International Postdoc Fellow from 2017 to 2020 and I have been recently appointed as a Carnegie DEAL Junior Research Follow. My research focuses on the production of valuable pharmaceuticals in plants, particularly vaccine candidates and diagnostic reagents.  My work has been on Influenza virus, Rift Valley Fever and Bluetongue orbiviruses.  Other projects I have been involved in include the production of diagnostic reagents for Shuni virus.

Dr Alta van Zyl
Junior Research Fellow
AltaI received my PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town in 2014. My PhD focussed on the development of plant-based vaccine candidates for Bluetongue virus.  Currently I’m a Junior Research Fellow in the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU). My research interests centre around the expression of recombinant proteins in plants and in cell culture, particularly proteins that can be used as potential vaccine candidates for humans and animals. 

I have a keen interest in human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine research and have worked on the development of a platform for the expression of HPV vaccine candidates in plants. I have extensive experience in the production and purification of papilloma virus-like particles (VLPs) and pseudovirions (PsVs) in plants. Other projects I am involved in include the production of VLPs and recombinant proteins for bovine papillomavirus, porcine circovirus and beak and feather disease virus; all of these are of great interest in the animal health sector. 


Dr Emmanuel Margolin
Podt-doctoral fellow
I completed my undergraduate studies in the Molecular and Cell Biology department at UCT, before moving to Medical School for postgraduate training in Virology. My research aims to develop viral glycoprotein-based vaccines against emerging and pandemic viruses in Africa. Whilst most proteins accumulate at high levels in plants, viral glycoproteins often express poorly and may not undergo appropriate maturation along the secretory pathway. In order to circumvent these constraints, we are working to transiently engineer the secretory pathway to support chaperone-mediated folding, proteolytic processing and glycosylation. A major current focus is to engineer the glycosylation of these antigens to better reproduce the glycosylation present on the native virus, and to test the immunogenicity of these glyco-optimized antigens in animal models. In addition to working with Dr Ann Meyers and Prof Ed Rybicki, I work closely with Matt Verbeek (Scientific Officer) and Abdul Isaacs (M.Sc. student).

Google scholar profile:

Dr Sue Dennis
Post-doctoral fellow
Sue DennisI completed my undergraduate studies at Stellenbosch University in 1985 followed by an Honours degree in Molecular Biology in 1986. I moved to Pretoria in 1987 to work on Bluetongue Virus at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute and while there, obtained an MSc degree in 1990 from the University of Pretoria. The next 25 years were spent assisting my husband, David, with the administration of his medical practice and being a Mom to our four children.

I registered for a PhD in 2015 in Prof Rybicki's Biopharming Research Unit working on the development of safe and cost effective VLP candidate vaccines against African horse sickness and graduated in July 2019. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow in the BRU under the supervision of Prof Ed Rybicki, Assoc Prof Inga Hitzeroth and Dr Ann Meyers, where I am continuing to work with AHSV vaccine development while co-supervising other students on the project.
Jennifer Stander
Post-doctoral fellow
JenniferI grew up in Gauteng and completed my BSc, BSc Honours and MSc in Microbiology at the University of Pretoria. My studies focused on establishing a high-throughput sequencing-based diagnostic system for the detection of grapevine viruses. My fascination with viruses and their diagnosis led me to BRU at the University of Cape Town, with their new and exciting approaches to serological reagent and vaccine development.

Working under the supervision of Dr Ann Meyers, Prof. Ed Rybicki and Dr Aleyo Chabeda, my PhD was focused on the development of candidate vaccines for West Nile virus in Nicotiana benthamiana. This research guided my interest in the possibility of developing multimeric vaccines, in plants, for virus genera such as the flaviviruses, which is the focus of my post-doctoral fellowship. My aspiration as a researcher is to develop diagnostic reagents and vaccines that would benefit low-and-middle-income countries.

Matt Verbeek
Scientific officer
Matt VerbeekI am a typical Joburg boy having grown up in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg. I moved down to Cape Town in 2012 to start my undergrad degree at UCT and seem to have fallen in love with the mother city. I completed my BSc in Chemistry and Biochemistry as well both my Honours and MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology, the latter within the BRU.
I am currently employed as a Scientific Officer under Dr Emmanuel Margolin to focus on research around the expression of notable viral glycoproteins in the pursuit of developing plant expressed vaccine candidates. The area of foremost importance being research into the development of a possible plant expressed HIV vaccine candidate.
Phindile Ximba
PhD student
PhindileI am originally from the small town in the Northern side of KZN. I completed my B.Sc in Biochemistry and Chemistry at University of KwaZulu Natal in 2011. I then completed MSc in Biochemistry in 2014, also at UKZN. My MSc project focused on recombinant expression and characterisation of trypanosomal cysteine proteases for the development of point-of-care diagnostic tests for animal trypanosomiasis. In 2015, I joined UCT Medical Virology lab as a scientific officer working on the SHIP project focusing on developing HIV-1 Env subunit vaccines to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies. I am currently registered as a PhD student under the co-supervision of Dr Ros Chapman, Prof. Anna-Lise Williamson, Dr Ann Mayers and Prof. Ed Rybicki. My project is focusing on using different tags to improve the production and immunogenicity of Env produced in both mammalian and plant expression systems.
Asanda Matiso
MSc student
AsandaI'm originally from King William's Town in the Eastern Cape. I completed my National diploma in Biotechnology (2010 - 2012) and BTech degree in Biomedical Technology (2013 - 2014) at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I first joined BRU in April 2016 as a NRF intern. I am currently pursuing my MSc under the supervision of Dr Ann Meyers, Dr Inga Hitzeroth and Prof Ed Rybicki. My project focuses on the use of a mouse phage display library to generate single chain variable fragments (scFvs) antibodies against Ribulose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase or RuBisCO which is regarded as the main potential contaminant in plant produced proteins.
Tim Plasket
MSc student
TimI grew up in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. I moved to Cape Town to study at UCT in 2014. I completed my BSc with majors in Biochemistry and Genetics in 2016, which I then followed with a BSc(Hons) in Molecular and Cell Biology in 2017.
I am currently in the Biopharming Research Unit studying towards my MSc under the supervision of Dr Inga Hitzeroth and Dr Rosemary Meggersee. My project focuses on the African Horse Sickness Virus (AHSV), a midge-borne disease which severely affects equids in Sub-Saharan Africa. I am particularly interested in generating antibody-like molecules (short chain variable fragments or ScFvs) derived from a phage display library which are specific to AHSV serotype 5.
Munyaradzi Tinarwo
MSc student
MunyaradziI am currently an MSc student with interests in biopharming and virology. I am a holder of B.Tech (Hons) in Biotechnology from Chinhoyi University of Technology (Zimbabwe) and a BSc (Hons) in Microbiology from North-West University (South Africa). I am currently working on the African horse sickness virus for my MSc research. Previously, I have worked on Optimization of the Isolation and Cloning Techniques of the Kinase Domain of the Triphosphate Tunnel Metalloenzyme (TTM) gene from Arabidopsis thaliana. I also worked on the reduction of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) in distillery effluent by bioaugmentation techniques.